Henry [Garrett] 1804-1860 Newland.

Forest scenes in Norway and Sweden: being extracts from the journal of a fisherman online

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have passed their line, when a gallant bear, with head erect
and mouth open, dashed into the opening at full gallop, and
came straight upon the Captain's hiding-place, as if he knew
where his enemy was lying, and meant, at all events, not to
die without vengeance.

The Captain fired deliberately, — paused for a moment to
see the effect of his shot — then fired his second barrel ; both
took effect on the broad chest exposed to him, though with-
out checking, for a moment, the rush of the bear. On he
came ! — the screen went down like reeds before him ; but
the Captain had thrown himself flat on the ground, and,
covered by the branches, had escaped the view of his adver-
sary, who plunged over them, dashed at the opposite cover,
and disappeared from. view.

" Upon my word, that was a near thing," said Bjornstjerna,
who cantered up to the spot on his pony ; "but a miss is as


good as a mile, — not that you missed that rascal ; I saw
both shots strike as plainly as ever I saw anything in my
life. Never mind, my boy, you have not lost him ; he will
not go far, for all his gallant bearing. Larssen ! " he shouted,
" Larssen ! come here and take my pony. We must ride the
Apostle's horse* now ;" and, leaping off, he proceeded to ar-
range his army, causing each skalfogde to muster his own
men, as they came up, on the edge of the shooting line.
Soiled, and wet, and dirty they looked : a Swede is rather a
a picturesque animal, when you are far enough off not to see
his dirt, particularly when there is any general muster of
them, for as each parish weaves its own wadmaal, or coarse
cloth, and each wears it of a particular colour or pattern, the
commencement of a skal looks, at a little distance, like a
muster of regular troops, in regular, though rather eccentric
uniforms : but the rains, and the dirt, and the mud-stains had
reduced this to a very general average, — a sort of forest uni-
form of neutral tint.

Advantage was taken of the halt to clean and reload the
fire-arms, most of which had been rendered useless in the
morning's beat ; for though the sun was shining brightly,
there had been no wind, and the rain-drops of yesterday were
glittering like diamonds on the branches, and pattering down
like a shower-bath on all who moved them.

In the mean time, the two chiefs having completed their
junction, held a short consultation, and it was determined to
advance a strong party from each side, close to the roots of
the cliffs, sufficientlv numerous to allow each man to touch
his neighbour, and then to beat the skalplatz out to the
river, which, not being quite so rapid or impassable as was
expected, was guarded by the boats.

This involved the abandonment of the Captain's picket,
which reinforced the beating party, the materiel being con-
veyed, under the superintendence of Jacob, to the travelling-
waGr^on which had been brought as near to the scene of
action as the forest roads permitted.

* A cant phrase in Sweden, for "going on foot."


And n ow began the real clangers of the skal, — the difficulty
of restraining the men from tiring indiscriminately into the
skalplatz, and shooting everything alike, — wolf, hare, fox, or

Fortunately the men were sober, and the officers well
aware of the danger. Flags were sent into the forest to
mark the advancing line ; strict injunctions were given that
none should be permitted to advance faster than his neigh-
bours, and a trusty man on the outside of the cover carried
a white flag about five yards before the main body of the
beaters, followed by an extempore provost marshal, with a
party of trusty men, who had orders to tie up and flog on
the spot any man who fired at anything whatever in the rear
of the flags.

All these arrangements were completed in little more than
half-an-hour, and the bugles on both sides rang out the ad-
vance. The progress was very slow, not only on account of
the necessity of preserving the accurate line, but because the
beasts themselves required so much rousing ; many of the
smaller game, and, on one occasion, even a wolf, absolutely
refused to move at all, and was knocked down or speared as
it lay. In no case was resistance made by any of the wild
beasts, with the single exception of the gallant fox, who,
desperate but unsubdued, stood boldly at bay, and bit
furiously at everything within its reach, but in vain, — for as
the line soon became two or three deep, escape was next to
an impossibility. One of the bear cubs, a three-parts grown
animal, was dispatched by a blow of a hatchet, and the other
was shot in the thick cover, by a man who had almost stepped
upon it without seeing it. The Captain's bear, a full-grown
male, did not live ten minutes after it had gained the cover ;
there was no faltering in its gait or symptom of injury, for
no muscle had been cut or bone broken by the shot, and its
pluck and energy had carried it on till it fell suffocated by
internal bleeding.

And now the shouts ran<* out from the river-side ; the
she-bear had taken the water, and was gallantly forcing her
way across it at a point rather higher than the boats had
expected her. The stream was strong ; the boats were at


some distance ; the Swedes, who were never good at moving-
shots, had blazed away when she first dashed into the
stream, and there was every chance of her escape, for they
are terribly awkward in loading their terribly awkward fire-
arms ; the rowers were pulling away for life and death, and
the heavy boats were forcing their slow progress against the
stream, which was gradually bringing the bear down to them,
as she swam' across it, when a long-shot from Bjornstjerna
took effect, she rolled over, recovered herself, struck out
again, but was carried down among the boats, secured, and
brought to land.

The game was then mustered, — so far, indeed, as it could
be recovered, for it was shrewdly suspected by some, that the
whole was not forthcoming. There were four full-grown
bears and three cubs, seven wolves, two lynxes, three or four
badgers, and a queer nondescript animal of the genus cards,
which they called a filfras ; foxes there were in some num-
bers, and this a much more valuable description of animal
than ours ; hares were numberless, and also squirrels, — many
of both these last species of game, too, had been stewed and
eaten on the preceding days. Whether any other description
of larger game had been shot, did not appear. Notwith-
standing what Moodie had said about the herd of stags, none
were paraded at the muster, and as he did not, after all,
make any complaint to the Ofwer Jagmastere on the subject,
it may be concluded that the whole was a mistake or a dream
of his own, and that no such breach of forest law had been
committed by any one, — a fact of which the Captain loudly
declared his complete conviction.

; -CStf Pi mwvP m if III :




"Truly my brethren — truly my dear sisters — do you know how it
seems to me — why it seems to me that no one can get along till he has
taken a draught — How so ? Eh ? Your health, dear soul —

Here's to you day and night,
New raptures, new delight.
Strike up with the fiddles ! beat the drums ! a stout pull at the pot !
Here's to ye as is fit,
The reckoning day endeth it.
The big bottle hail ye,
The drums beat reveiller,
At one draught down send it,
The reckoning will end it.
Kajsa Stina stands a drawing,
All my heart is clapper-clawing,
From the pot my fingers thawing —
Thus I sing my dying song."

Fredman's Epistle to Kajsa Stina, Karl Bellman.

Never had the arches of the old forest rung with such
shouts and screams, and roaring songs, and bursts of laughter,
as they did on the evening of the great skal. A few of the
elderly people, but a very few, had had enough of it, and
went off quietly to their homes as soon as they were released
from duty ; as for the rest, no one could have supposed that
they had been worked off their legs, and kept from their
natural sleep, and drenched to the skin for the last three or
four days and nights ; they were not over-clean, certainly,
though some of the youngsters had contrived, somehow or
other, to smarten themselves up for the occasion ; but the
rest made a great contrast to the women, those at least who
had taken no active part in the skal, — their white woollen
jackets, or scarlet or green spencers covered with embroidery
and buttoned down the front with silver knobs, formed a
pleasing relief to the dinginess and raggedness of active


service. As for the unfortunate buglers, who, most of them,
were general musicians, and would play upon anything
that was wanted, these, without the least regard to their
previous fatigues, which had been even greater than those
of the beaters, were placed upon barrels, or carts, or stumps
of trees, fiddling and clarionetting for the bare life, while
men and women tore in wild polska round them.

Some travellers have characterized the Swedish dances as
indecent ; whether they are so or not, English papas, and
mamas, and maiden aunts are very competent judges, for they
are precisely the English polka, as we call it (dropping the s for
convenience of pronunciation) ; the English polka is, in reality,
the national peasant dance of Sweden ; and in their own
country the Swedes dance it with all their hearts and souls
as well as their limbs and bodies — not sliding and mincing as
we do, but .downright pounding, so as to leave the print of
the foot, and especially the heel, on the yielding turf.

It might seem difficult to provide refreshments for such
a ball room in such a place, where the dancers mustered
somewhere about two thousand strong — but in truth they
were no way nice. The game, which Bjornstjerna had \ery
liberally given up to them, formed a good part of these
refreshments, a few sheep — " really sheep this time," the
Captain observed, — with a good supply of rye-meal made into
stirabout, formed the solids, and these, though, with the
exception of the game, they did not grow in the forest, were
easily procurable, for the families of the combatants, knowing
that a party of English gentlemen were engaged in the skal,
and rightly conjecturing that their hearts would be open,
had brought their stores to the meet, and all of these stores
were not exactly solids ; the barrels on which the fiddlers
were standing were intended for something better than rye-
meal : in fact, corn brandy, and a hot fiery liquor which they
make out of potatoes — very beastly to the taste, but quite as
efficacious in producing drunkenness as the very best Cognac —
was in plenty, and, the restrictions of the skal being at an
end, there was every prospect that the men would fully
indemnify themselves for their previous abstinence.

Birger and Mooclie were stamping, and polking, and


hurrahing, and kissing their partners with the best of them,
and the Captain, also, was not altogether unsuccessful in
his coup d'essai ; as for the men, Tom and Piersen had
altogether forgotten the inferiority of the Swedes to the true
Norwegians, and Jacob's long streaming coat tails had gone
quite mad.

Torkel, alone, stung by some jest from his friend Tom,
about the peculiar duties and system of self-denial proper for
an engaged man, crept up rather discontentedly to the fire,
at which the Parson was standings and talking over the
events of the day with Bjornstjerna.

In Norway, which in reality is a republic, and not a
monarchy, there is a great deal of independence and equality
among all ranks, which is not by any means the case in
Sweden ; but even in Sweden, a skal is a time of saturnalia ;
and besides, Torkel, though in some measure aGting in the
capacity of a servant, was, in reality, the son and heir of a
sufficiently wealthy proprietor ; and the Englishmen, whom
he ranked infinitely higher than he did the very first of
Swedish nobility, having treated him all along more as a
companion than anything else, he felt not the least shy of
the Hof Ofwer Jagmastere, though he added the title of
Count to his official honours, — and therefore entered very
readily into conversation.

They were turning over the skins of those beasts the
bodies of which were already undergoing a conversion into
soup ; most of these had been purchased by the party, and
were laid aside for packing ; but the lynxes and the filfras,
and some others, which are not considered good for eating,
were still hanging by their heels to the lower branches of
the tree.

The filfras was a curious animal, about three feet long, but
low in proportion to its length, with great splay feet, well
calculated to form natural snow shoes — in fact, he leaves a
track almost as large as that of a full-grown bear, and upon
the whole, very like one, and climbs trees even better and
quicker than his big brother. The present sjiecimen had
been detected on a tree, and being wounded while in the act
of passing from one branch to the other, had come to the


ground; but, wounded as he was, lie had fought gallantly for
his life, and had bitten so severely the first man who at-
tempted to handle him, that he was obliged to leave the skal
and go home. The filfras is a harmless beast enough, so far
as sheep and cattle are concerned, and lives chiefly upon
hares and such game, which, though his eyesight be not very
quick, a remarkably keen scent enables him to tire down
— he himself, in return, is even detected by his own scent,
which is perfectly perceptible to human nostrils, and ex-
tremely disagreeable, — few dogs can be got to run him.*

The lynx, though of the tiger race, is a very harmless
beast unless attacked ; he may carry off a young lamb now
and then, but very seldom kills his own mutton — it is not
for want of spirit, for he fights like any tiger when driven
into a corner ; throwing himself on his back, he polishes off
the dogs as fast as they come near him. A pack of English
fox-hounds might settle his business, as they probably would
that of his Bengal cousin himself ; but there is not a dog in
Sweden that would look him in the face.

" It is a great pity," said Torkel ; who was examining the
shot-holes in the bear-skins.

" What is a great pity ?" said the Parson.

" Why, to mob to death all these fine beasts, that might
have given people no end of sport in the winter."

"And eaten up no end of sheep and oxen," said Bjorn-

"Ah ! well !" that did not strike Torkel very forcibly ; he
had, it must be confessed, led hitherto a rather miscellaneous
sort of life ; he knew a great deal more about hunting than
he did about farming, and regarded the depredations of the
bear — though some of them had been made on his father's

* The only time the author ever did get a sight of one was in the
fjeld on the right bank of the Gotha, near Trollhattan, when he was
making his way through some tangled ground in search of a lake, which
lies at no very great distance from the fall. On leaping down from a
low ledge of rock, he very nearly pitched upon the top of a filfras, as
much to his own surprise as that of the beast. He struck at him with
his spiked fishing-rod — the only weapon he had with him. Fortunately
for both parties, as he now thinks, he missed him ; so they parted,
much to their mutual satisfaction, and have not met since.


own farm — much in the light in which an English fox-hunter
listens to tales of murdered geese and turkeys.

The matter which weighed upon his conscience just then
was, that poor Nallet had not received altogether fair
play. This had not struck him during the heat of the
chase so very much, but, now that the murder had been com-
mitted, and that he was regarding the result of it in cold
blood, he evidently did not feel quite easy in his mind about

" Ah !" he said, " poor fellow," turning over the skin of
Bjornstjerna's own bear, which was yet wet with the water
of the river in which he had been killed ; " well ! we do not
do such things in our country."

" No !" said Bjornstjerna, " you could not get a couple of
thousand people together in your country without knives

" But how do you manage it in your country V said the
Parson, who was not a little afraid that his follower's na-
tionality would get the better of his politeness.

" Ah !" said Torkel, " you should see one of our Nor-
wegian bear-hunts in the winter ; it is not an easy thing to
get Master Nalle on foot, and he takes a good deal of
looking after ; but, when you do get a chance, it is worth

" I remember my brother Nils one day, as he was coming
home from church, took a short cut across the fjeld, and put
his eye on a queer-looking heap in the snow, that he did not
rightly know what to make of. "While he was looking at it
out came a great fellow — one of the biggest I ever followed,
— as if he would eat him. Down tumbled Nils on his face,
and the Wise One came ploutering through the snow right
over him, but went on, minding his own business, as all wise
ones do, and never stopped to look at Nils.

" It so happened that my brother Nils had nothing
but a pair of skarbogar on his feet (a rough sort of snow-
shoe, made of wood and rope), and, knowing he could not

t Nalle is the cant name for the bear kind, as with us Reynard is the
cant name for a fox.


get over the ground very well, never tried to follow him, but
came home quietly and told me what he had seen. The
weather looked fine, and there was neither snow likely to
fall, nor wind likely to drift what was fallen already, so that
we knew the tracks would lie ; and the next morning, before
it was well light, we had each of us our pair of skier on our
feet, our rifles at our backs, a good iron-shod pole in our
hands to shove along by, and a week's provision in our
havresacs. I took old Rig* with me, in case we should Jose
the tracks.

" We soon came up with them, and off we went, taking it
leisurely — for we had a long run before us. It requires some
little exertion to get up hill with these skier ; they do better for
such a country as this than they do for the rocky and tangled
fjeld in Norway ; but, on flat ground, you get along five or six
miles an hour without feeling it, and as for down-hill, you
may go just as fast as you like, only for standing still and
keeping your feet.

" For four or five hours the track lay as straight and even
in the snow as if we had been travelling the post road to
Christiania. Old Nalle thought his winter quarters were
not over safe, and meant evidently to make a passage of it,
and had just been trotting along in the snow, not looking
right or left of him.

" After that the track came doubled and crooked, as if the
old gentleman had been taking a view of the country, to see
whether it would suit his purpose, before lying down for
another nap, — so we had to work it out painfully, step by
step. This was a slow job, for he had taken a turn to every
point of the compass, and had crossed and re-crossed his own
tracks, and had changed his mind so often, that the short
winter's day began to close, and we feared the light would
fail ; so we started right and left of the spot, and succeeded
in ringing him before we met again."

" What do you mean by ringing a bear ?" said the Parson.

" Making a circle round his tracks," said Torkel, " so as to

* "Eig," the earthly name of Heimdall, the watcher of Heaven's
gate, when he disguises himself to go skylarking on earth. Hence the
slang expression, " Eunning a Eig."


be sure none lie beyond it ; in that case you are independent
of a thaw, for you know that the old gentleman must be
within a certain space. When we met we agreed to leave
our friend quiet, and to sleep till morning ; so we cut down
a tree or two, and got up a roaring fire in a little hollow to
leeward, where we were sure the bear could not see our
light or smell our smoke, and there we lay, snug and com-
fortable enousrh.

"No thaw or mischance of any kind had taken place
during the nisdit, and the next morning we were on the
tracks again ; for we had marked the place where we had
left off, by setting up one of the poles in it.

" We soon got puzzled, however, and began to be very
thankful that we had brought old Rig. Rig was a sharp
fellow, — one of the quickest dogs I ever met with at picking
up a scent, or taking a hint either ; his namesake, when he
watched at the gates of Asgard, could not have kept a
brighter look-out. The ground soon got very tangled and
sideling, so, as the ring was but a small one, we determined
to give up the tracks, and to hunt for him with the dog.

" The old fellow was not long in getting a sniff at him, and
made noise enough to wake up the Nornir in the cave of
Hela. I pushed on, and before I could tell where I was,
ran my skier one on each side a little hole in the snow, where
the dog was baying, — a place that did not look big enough
for a fox to get in. I could not very well turn, for the
points of the skier were one on each side the trunk of a great
twisted birch, at whose foot the hole was ; and I could not
see what was in the hole, the snow was so dazzling in the
bright sunshine that everything else looked black. I began
to think that Rig had got hold of nothing better than a fox,
and was beginning to be angry with the dog for making such
a row, and running the chance of giving our real game a
hint to steal off. I was looking down between my skier,
with my face as low as my knees, when all at once I felt the
snow heaving up from under me, and over I rolled, head
over heels, and old Fur Jacket with me, and Rig, who had
pinned him as he bolted, on the top of us both.

" The old fellow was a great deal too much taken up with



the dog to mind me ; but before Nils could come up, or I
could get my legs again, lie had shaken him off, and was
dashing through the deep snow at a rate that kicked it up
in a white mist behind him.

I had kept fast hold of my rifle, all through, and the snow
had not done it a bit of harm ; in iact, the frost was so
sharp that it came out of the barrel like so much flour ; and
besides, we always cover our locks with tallow after loading.
He had got pretty well out of shot before we were in chase,
but for his sins he had taken down-hill, and the ground was
was pretty clear, so we slid along after him like Fenrir after
the Sun ;* when all at once, Nils, who had a little the best of
the race, touched a stump with the point of his skie, and
flew up into the air, pitching head foremost into the snow.
It was, luckily for him, deep enough to save him from a
broken head or neck — at least, so I found afterwards, for I
had not time to stop then. As for the dog, he was a mile

" Just at the bottom of the slope, I ran in upon the chase,
and he turned short round when I was not half- a-dozen vards
from him. I could no more stop than I could stop the light-
ning ; so, setting my pole in the snow, I swerved a little, and
just missed going over him, as Nils had done with the

" By the time I had curved round, I found he had taken
advantage of his chance, and was going up again, travelling
three times as fast as I could hope to do, for skier are des-
perate bad things up-hill. However, mine had seal-skin upon
them, luckily, for in our mountainous country we are obliged
to do something to prevent slipping back ; but, for all that,
he was getting much the best ot it, so I took a cool shot at
him, and heard the ball strike just as if I had thrown it into
a piece of dough, but he never winced, or took the least

" However, Nils had managed to pick himself up, and
I saw him and Rig together a good way above us, so I

* The Sun and Moon are continually pursued by the wolf Fenrir and
her progeny, who sometimes nearly catch her. Hence the eclipses.

SKIER. 385

waved my cap and shouted : you can hear a shout in the
winter half-a-dozen miles oft'. Nils changed his course, so as
to cut us off. I followed, loading as I went. By-and-bye
the old fellow seemed to find out that he had enemies on
both sides of him, for he stopped, and growled, and looked
back at me, and showed his teeth. Just then Nils made a
noise above, by breaking through some understuff; and he
turned, and came at me with his mouth open, charging down-
hill as hard as he could lick. It was ' neck or nothing' with

Online LibraryHenry [Garrett] 1804-1860 NewlandForest scenes in Norway and Sweden: being extracts from the journal of a fisherman → online text (page 33 of 36)